A row over Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s remarks about a digger’s death in Afghanistan has polarised the dead soldier’s family, officials and the media.
Abbott became embroiled in a debate after the Seven Network aired footage of him discussing the circumstances that led to the death of Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney in Afghanistan last year.
Lance Corporal MacKinney’s father, Ian MacKinney, has slammed Abbott and said he was ‘out of line’, telling Fairfax the comments made him feel sick.
However, MacKinney’s widow, Beck, said there was no issue at all.
“Tony and I spoke at length and I fully accept that he was quoted out of context in the television news,” Ms MacKinney said in a statement.
“As far as we, Jared’s family, are concerned there is no issue, the matter is over, and we will be making no further comment.”
The footage showed Mr Abbott, on a visit to Tarin Kowt in October, listening to a defence official explain that circumstances beyond the army’s control led to Lance Corporal MacKinney’s death.
“It’s pretty obvious that, well, sometimes shit happens, doesn’t it?”, Mr Abbott is heard responding to the explanation.
The senior military figure is shown agreeing with Mr Abbott in other versions of the footage, but Channel 7 did not air that part of it.
The president of the NSW RSL backed Abbott in the media storm over his comments.
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NSW RSL President Don Rowe said it was clear Mr Abbott had spoken on “the spur of the moment”, AAP reported.
“I think probably Australian troops use more colourful language than that at times,” Mr Rowe told Macquarie Radio.
“It’s just one of those things that I think is spur of the moment.
“I think there could have been a better response to such a serious situation which was raised at that time.”
This morning on Sky News, Neil James of the Defence Association also came to Abbott’s defence, saying it would be ‘hard to see’ how any digger would be offended.
For its part, the Seven Network has been criticised – first by Tony Abbott and then elsewhere in the media – for playing the clip ‘out of context.’
Seven reporter Mark Riley sought to explain why in an exchange on ABC Radio.